Friday, December 26, 2003


On my way to see Dr. John at House of Blues this evening. Will have something to say about that and a bunch of other stuff tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Off To Siberia

Not really, but I used to think of New Iberia as Siberia without a hard freeze...

Once again, I'm hoping that the car survives the ride. I'll be over in the slow lane, so pass at will.

Happy Holidays--the odds of me finding a place from which to post tomorrow are close to zero, but I'll be back on the 26th...and if there's still a consensus amongst the Louisiana web loggers, exiled or not, to do some serious drinking this weekend, by all means let me know--maybe add a comment over at CrawlingWestward.

Won't really be able to post, but should be able to quickly glance at the usual websites. Otherwise, happy holidays to y'all.
Rush Limbaugh, Apologist for the ACLU?

I haven't slammed Rush for a while now, because others are doing such a good job of it. To wit, check out Al Giordano over at BigLeftOutside:

For more than a decade Rush Limbaugh has sat at his microphone and piled on drug addicts, prisoners, criminal defendants and the Constitutional rights they invoke in their defense. He's even gone after defense attorneys as a group, but mainly he's picked on people who couldn't fight back, who had no microphone, no money, no chance.

Limbaugh has never, in fact, entered a fair fight in his life. So he's in a bit over his head now that he needs his own criminal defense, his own defense lawyers, and, this is really funny, Rush now needs the Bill of Rights!...

His discourse yesterday, on the radio, is revealing....

"Why would any of us want such records made public, even if they prove our innocence? It's not up to me to prove my innocence by giving up my right to privacy. I have to give up my right to privacy now in order for the state who is, in effect, just casting a line out there, hoping to hook something. They've got to invade my privacy to do this...

"Now, as you all know, I have admitted that I was addicted to prescription painkillers. I have been to five weeks of treatment. After failing twice to get off of these things myself, I sought professional help, did so, and I continue to be in treatment now. Now, I don't know, and this is...I run the risk here. I'm not whining about it. I'm just genuinely curious. How many such people are being pursued by the authorities?

"I could give you some names of actors and actresses and sports figures, and not one of them have been pursued in this circumstance..."

When Rush asks "How many such people are being pursued by the authorities?" the operative word is "such." Because half a million Americans have already been pursued and imprisoned by the authorities for drug related crimes. A much larger number have been arrested, detained, had their homes and cars seized, lost custody of their children, been kicked out of their homes, lost student loans, been expelled from school, been beaten by cops and prison guards, been raped by other prisoners under the gleeful eyes of the guards... all this and more has happened to millions of Americans.

And Rush knows it. Wanna know how I know that he knows it? Because he's spent the past fifteen years kicking all these people when they've been down!

No, with a simple turn of the phrase, Rush refers not to all these people but, rather, to "such people" as "actors and actresses and sports figures" whom he considers to be his peers. (Wisely, he left politicians off his list, lest we remember how authorities used Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry's girlfriend Rakshita Moore to lure him to a hotel room, put a crack pipe in his hands, and film it on video from a secret camera, in a film quickly leaked to the TV networks.)

What does this tell us about Rush? He always says that when people talk about others they reveal more about them selves. What does Rush reveal about himself here?

In essence, Rush thinks he belongs - or should be considered to belong - to an elite caste along with "actors, actresses, and sports figures," who, because they are wealthy and famous, are above the law.

Read the rest here.

Apropos my post below--there's nothing wrong with giving Rush a good slam. Face it: there's not a chance in hell that he'd cut anybody whose politics are to the left of Atilla the Hun ANY SLACK AT ALL. And the rest of the neo-con, wingnut right is marching to the same drummer. They set the rules: remember when 'questions of character' became a defining chant from these folks back in the 80s? 'Character' trumped everything...

Well, the character issue is coming back to haunt the very people who made so much of it. And there's nothing wrong with payback for those who, like Rush, made so much political hay playing the 'morality card' all this time....

To that end, maybe I should ask Bill Bennett what the odds are of El Rushbo serving any time. Maybe he can hook me up with one of his buddies in Vegas. For that matter, maybe Bob Livingston can help bring the ladies...

Hypocrisy, thy name is Limbaugh.
Hate Speech

Via Steve Perry's War Blog (and I say this over and over: not the lame Steve Perry aka Journey's frontman lead singer), we have an example of the hysterical nature of certain wingnuts as they seek to deify the second coming of Bush while demonizing any who dare question the divinity of the Kennebunkport Crawfordian.

As one Canadian just discovered, news in the United States no longer breaks in cresting waves but increasingly strikes in a swarm of tiny stings, delivered by an expanding hive of conservative news-media outlets whose growing influence is set to dominate the coming presidential election campaign.

The new U.S. micromedia swept north of the border last week, and, as usual, its assault began as gossip.

Few Republican Party loyalists in the United States noticed that a young Edmonton man set up a website called Canadians for Wesley Clark, urging Canadians to support the popular retired general's bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Mr. Clark's official website links to the page.

Within hours, news of the Edmonton site was picked up by gossip gadfly Matt Drudge and became a top news story on the Texas-based website GOPUSA, a one-man operation whose news stories often provide content for hundreds of phone-in radio shows across the United States.

Less than 12 hours later, the Canadian made headlines in the conservative New York Sun, which proclaimed: "Anti-Bush Foreigners Eye Web for Donations to Democrats."

By the end of the day on Friday, the Edmonton website had become part of the election: George W. Bush's campaign team sent millions of Republicans a fundraising letter that accuses Mr. Clark of "raising foreign cash to attack our president."

The whole thing was so unnerving for the Canadian student who runs the Wesley Clark site that he will identify himself only by his first name, Rob.

"I knew something big was up when I checked my e-mail one day and found over 200 of them, all of them hateful and quite ignorant," he said yesterday.

"I've received almost a thousand e-mails since then."

As news, there was not much to it.

The website informed visitors that foreigners cannot donate to U.S. political campaigns and urged them to give instead to non-partisan groups that produce ads opposing Mr. Bush.

After the story exploded south of the border, even that pitch was removed.

(Courts have not decided whether foreign donations to U.S. activist groups are legal.)

None of the major U.S. newspapers, magazines or TV networks considered it news, but the story is a perfect example of how small, ideologically driven media outlets are becoming part of U.S. politics, many observers said.

"There's no question that conservatives have built up a sophisticated echo chamber in which talk radio and cable help drive certain stories" that have their origins on the Internet, said Howard Kurtz, a Washington-based media analyst for CNN, as well as The Washington Post.

That's quite a bit of the story, but not all of it. Take a look at the rest here.

In a certain sense, this should be considered food for thought for anyone opposing the regime of Dubya. When the left busily snipes away at each other, questioning what sorts of aggressive political tactics are acceptable (e.g., the Bush ad that 'cleans up' some obvious gaffes in his SOTU address, making the dauphin sound more, uh, presidential), the right will unleash the dogs at the earliest opportunity--and, if it doesn't work out, they simply move on. There is NO NEED for them to worry about being called on this by the press because the press has the collective memory of a plasmodial slime mold these days. And if anyone DOES call them to task, there is always the defense of plausible deniability. As the story above makes clear, this latest case of launching slime bombs against a Canadian, for chrissakes, comes from the Republican version of the Storm Troopers (aka the varied flavors of dittoheads who have mastered just enough technology that they've managed to program the various hate-radio telephone numbers onto their speed dial), whose ideological underpinnings are Matt Drudge, Limbaugh, the MurdochPress, and so on--which are affiliated with, but not quite subsidiaries, of the Republican Party. The wingnuts supply the vitrol, while the inner circle can pick and choose which attack they will add their own-knee-to-the-groin to, and which will remain in the realm of the Shock Troops. Works out nicely for them.

If the left wants to compete, we will need to launch our own attacks--early, often, and unrelenting. The fact is we've got far more in the way of issues--although, in retrospect, I'd have given Bush as much grief as possible on the SOTU remix--hit him on it, then move on. I took a look at a Howard Dean policy address--my link was via the good people over at Bad Attitudes--and it's the kind of attack that is hard-hitting but eminently fair. Whether or not Howard becomes the nominee is of less interest to me than what he says--all of his points are dead on accurate. Let Dean and the rest of the people running for the nomination do their "presidential" stuff--while, simultaneously, we should make certain that as many people as possible know just what sort of petty, two-bit, low-rent-for-such-a-high-brow guy Bush really is. If we do this right, Bush might show his true colors, instead of getting the free ride of a lifetime from the SCLM. And Bush's true colors aren't that pretty. Which is why Karl Rove's job for the next eleven months will be to keep Bush far away from anything even remotely resembling a genuine public setting. Sure, he'll give speeches to the moral equivalent of a carefully vetted studio audience. But the key to this election will be to make sure the vast, unwashed masses (i.e., the rest of us) are unaware of the true candidate--a moral, ethical, financial, and political failure, who rose to the top of the slag heap with the connivance of a willing, MurdochLead media--and, even then, it took a few illegal actions in Florida as well as the worst decision in the history of the SCOTUS to get him there...
Holiday "Spirit"

I don't know what's weirder--everyone wishing you a Happy Holiday or many of the same folks trying to run you over in their cars, while leaning on the horn and showing you the Holiday Finger.

Tis the season.

Finished my Holiday shopping, which is one of my least favorite things to do. It's enough to keep me away from stores for several months, which is a bad strategy, since there are always post-Holiday "dump the merchandise" sales.

This year, I'm gonna try to motivate myself for one more round of consumer spending, as I actually have a few things I honestly need. But I know it won't be much fun.

And--the ongoing saga of my car continues to vex me--the damn thing won't shift into overdrive on the highway. There is plenty of transmission fluid in the resovoir. But it went from being stubborn--would wait ten miles or so to shift--to more stubborn--won't shift at all.

I might not hit the stores after all. The last time I had a car with transmission problems, it set me back $1300. And that was ten years ago.

Maybe the mechanic (or the mechanic's family) will enjoy shopping with my money...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

So We're in the Good Range...

For now. But holiday driving still sucks. I've said it before, but I'll post again: can't the United States come up with a set of genuine choices in transportation? Basically, less than a thousand miles, you've got one choice: a private car. More than a thousand miles, you've got one choice: an airplane.

Actually, I'll cut SOME slack to the airlines--it's not my favorite way to travel, but it's fast. When you're going a long way, speed helps.

But for shorter haul trips there needs to be some kind of rail-based service. If nothing else, it would help keep traffic down to the point that the highway system can function safely within its design parameters. Interstates are NOT designed for bumper-to-bumper traffic. Period. Every time I hear the term "chain-reaction-crash" on the television news, I want to goddamned pick up the phone and shout at the people responsible for such Soviet Style transit choices--except that this "choice" has been in the making for the last sixty years or so.

Periodically, I'll see the science pages of the paper report on the latest attempt to "automate" the highways. But trains already do this--they allow a high concentration of people to transit in a much smaller amount of space. And, besides--if you can't trust the road crews to keep the asphalt and concrete in proper maintenence, are you really gonna trust them to keep up the immensely complicated systems that will be required for an automated highway system to function properly? Hell, I bet automated highways NEVER make it, not the least reason being that any State or national actuarial official would shit thirty pound bricks before allowing the State of Federal government to assume liability for a system failure. And if you think the private sector will pick up the slack--ha--don't make me laugh.

I've also noted below (am too lazy to find the link, but it's in the archives, probably from around the LAST major holiday), that even the hard-core acolytes at the altar of the automobile should think about supporting mass public transit. It's in THEIR self-interest. Car-worshippers would no longer have to deal with the veritable junkyard of metal plying the highways at a snail's pace (because they are substandard vehicles).

Have you noticed that many drivers, especially on the highway, have a maddening tendency to tailgate? I used to chalk this up solely to the stupidity of the individual driver(s). But, more and more, I try to take into consideration the following: many of these folks are caught in an interstate rush hour commute that makes football game day traffic look like a picnic. At a certain point, the bad habits developed during rush hour spill over. And it seems that once that happens, good driving skills are lost.

And I'll repeat: I'd be happy to support much stronger penalties for driving under the influence if there truly was an alternative to the private car. As it stands (or stumbles) I mostly walk to the tavern(s) of my choice these days, one, because I can, and two, because I know that I'll be in no condition to drive upon leaving.

Yeah, it would take a lot of investment to offer genuine transit alternative to those in the US who have none (basically, everyone except the denizens of the east and west coasts). But it could pay for itself over time in fewer fatalites, less pollution, and less costs to fix roads that fall apart with incredible rapidity (the latter in part due to the much larger volumes of traffic using the roads compared to what said roads were designed for). I'd like to think that, if we hadn't run off into Iraq for what everyone now knows was non-existent reasons, we'd have $160 billion to start.
One More Post Re: Lenny Bruce
If you ever get a chance to listen to the Berkeley performance, be sure to listen carefully to the section where he describes how the need for law enforcement developed. When you stop laughing, you'll realize how right he was...

Example: [man of authority explaining to the recruit] "We need someone to enforce the rules. So I'm gonna give you a stick and a gun, and you do it, you hear? BUT WAIT till I'm out of the room. Now, occasionally you might hear me say something about how it takes 'a certain sort of mentality to do that kind of work' but DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT, you just KICK 'EM IN THE ASS real good..."

Rules and the People Who Comment on Them

Justice is finally served, although cold enough to qualify as a frozen dinner. Lenny Bruce was pardoned by Governor George Pataki for a conviction stemming from an "Obscene Performance:"

During a November 1964 performance at Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, Bruce used more than 100 "obscene" words. Undercover police detectives attended the show, and later testified against Bruce. The charge was Giving an Obscene Performance

The police were probably laughing along with everyone else.

I can recommend both the Curran Theater CD/Album and the Berkeley Performance, and, while it isn't his best, I have a tape called The Law, Language, and Lenny Bruce.

Example: "As smart as any Southerner could be--if Albert Einstein (adopts fake Southern accent) tawked lak thayatt--there wouldn't be no bomb." (Continues as Southern Albert Einstein) "Folks, I wanna tell y'all 'bout nukulur fissyion. Man, I'm talkin' some STUFF, buddy."

I take no offense...because it's funny, for chrissakes. Besides, intelligent Southerners who DO sound Southern scare the shit out of northerners--I speak from experience.

More on Lenny can be found here. Hard to believe it's been almost thirty-eight years since he passed on.

Josh Marshall took the time today to express his own skepticism about something that I noted a couple of days ago. Marshall notes the reporter in question (Yvonne Ridley) might not be in the best position to check the veracity of the story. Additionally, she's not on top of some obvious facts--for instance, the name of the leading Kurdish opposition group.

So chalk it up to--well, take your choice--a fanciful mind, a gullible reporter, whatever. Not that it really made much difference.

On the other hand, Today in Iraq links to a Seattle Times story that suggests Saddam behaved much more--how say--Saddam-like when captured: Saddam was being handcuffed, he began to struggle with his captors. He spat at the soldiers. One of the commandos decked him, either with a punch or a rifle butt. (The military later tidied up the story of his capture for popular consumption.)"

The story goes on to note that the Bush Administration has essentially denied the story--or is it that they simply can't recall?

Atrios has it posted, but I saw this last night and thought I'd add a link as well. Short Version:
Newly declassified documents show that the US was quite eager to assist Iraq in its war with Iran, despite evidence showing an almost daily use by Iraq of chemical weapons. Our general condemnation of chemical weapons use was strictly for public consumption, and our real position was that Iraq must not lose.

Excerpt: As a special envoy for the Reagan administration in 1984, Donald H. Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary, traveled to Iraq to persuade officials there that the United States was eager to improve ties with President Saddam Hussein despite his use of chemical weapons, newly declassified documents show.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who ran a pharmaceutical company at the time, was tapped by Secretary of State George P. Shultz to reinforce a message that a recent move to condemn Iraq's use of chemical weapons was strictly in principle and that America's priority was to prevent an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq war and to improve bilateral ties.

Rummy says he "doesn't remember" if he read or otherwise followed the instructions Secretary Shultz passed to him.

After all, he was traveling under the aegis of--oh wait, that's right, he was "just a private citizen" at the time. Surely he couldn't be expected to act as an agent of the United States' government, right?

If you believe the above, I'll give you a choice--Bridge in Brooklyn or Swampland in Florida--take your pick. Either one is a steal.

And don't you love how high level officials always conveniently get a case of amnesia when it comes to embarrassing disclosures?

Monday, December 22, 2003

Moral Duplicity

Apologies are in order to whoever pointed this out to me--I forget who it was; otherwise, I'd link to your site first.

A disabled soldier will never see combat again, but he might find himself fighting a new fight against the government's medical bureaucracy.

Lieutenant John Fernandez, who lost part of both legs in Iraq, knows he can no longer be a soldier, but he's not ready to leave the army.

"I personally don't think it's right to be forced out of the — the military and all of a sudden be forced to live on half of the pay that I was getting," he says.

Ryan Kelley, who lost his left leg below the knee, makes about $20,000 a year as a staff sergeant. Once he leaves the army, he will receive about $8,000 a year in benefits.

Fernandez is appealing his medical discharge. "I'm not gonna let myself be pushed around," he says.

People who opposed the Vietnam war have been falsely accused of abusing soldiers upon their return to the United States. But what is more abusive than basically giving the heave ho to people who gave their all while in uniform? Certainly the wounds suffered by many soldiers render them unable to perform combat missions--duh. But there are plenty of non-combat roles these individuals can perform in, IF THEY SO CHOOSE. Giving these folks the bureaucratic run-around is nothing more than figuratively spitting on them. Between this and Bush's attempt to cut combat pay--fortunately, enough outcry was raised to put a stop to that--you have to wonder what the hell is going on in their minds.

Of course, consider: of the big shots in the Bush administration, exactly two--Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld--actually served in the regular, full time military (and Rumsfeld's service was between wars). No wonder they have little or no awareness.

A Chickenhawk AND a Liar

Via Atrios, a link to Matthew Yglesias over at Tapped:

An awful lot of ink's been spilled in recent weeks on hand-wringing over liberal Bush hatred, but as Tom DeLay's appearance yesterday on Meet The Press shows, the left still has a long way to go before reaching the rhetorical depths of the GOP leadership. The interview began with DeLay referring to Democrats as "hateful," "moronic," "beyond the pale," "outrageous," "cruel," and "extremist" by way of trying to establish that liberals are excessively negative.

The Hammer went on to smear Wes Clark, whose spokesman reminded us of something Tom said back in 1988:

"He and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. 'So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself.' Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention." [/Houston Press/, 1/7/99]

If you make it over to Tapped, check out the post immediately below the link above as well. Short version: Sam Donaldson admits he's got the fine herding instinct of the best of sheep. Even though Howard Dean's pronouncement that "America is not safer because of Saddam's capture" is factually correct (my note: if we WERE safer, why did they raise the terror threat level?), he, Sam Donaldson, and the rest of the corporate media, are COMPELLED to attack the statement because--well, because. Baaahhh.

And Sam went off bleating into the night...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What is Your Favorite Color?

Yellow--no, Orange. Forgive me if I'm a little nonplussed by the latest change in the security color. Sure, there are plenty of well-minded folks working for the Department of Homeland Security, but the idea that we can somehow plan for acts of terrorism is a little ridiculous. About all we might be able to do is potentially raise enough noise on our own to scare any would-be terrorist into delaying or calling off their plans--sort of like we might have been able to do pre 9/11, if certain higher ups had done more than planning month-long vacations.

I wonder if Tom Ridge is somehow doing Howard Dean's bidding. Or maybe he just doesn't know that raising the threat level might lower the morale of our troops.

Murmur Gadfly

Actually, I'm pleasantly surprised that BlairBush managed to negotiate a deal with the Lybian Colonel, although it's a little ironic that, in light of all we've accused Iraq of doing, we'd let someone like Ghadaffi off the hook. I've always been a little skeptical of the Berlin disco bombing--I'm inclined to believe the perpetrators had either a Syrian or Iranian link--but the PanAm tragedy was admitted to by Lybia, which has agreed to pay compensation to the families who lost loved ones when a bomb brought the plane down over Scotland.

I don't justify the actions of the Lybian national(s) who brought the plane down. The "defense" of the accused was that it was an act of revenge following the downing of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes in 1988. However, this downward spiral of revenge/attack/revenge/attack will, in the end, do little more than dramatically raise the level of hostility between the West and the Middle East. Until we overcome the idea that Blind Rage is an acceptable response to hostile acts, we'll do little more than play into the hands of the bin Laden's of the world.

And I Have No Idea What to Think of This

At first glance, these stories seemed to be of the wingnut variety, but they are beginning to see some play, particularly in the Australian media, for some reason. So call me cautiously skeptical about this, although it wouldn't be the first time Centcom has been a little loose with the truth.

I didn't think Saddam looked like he had been drugged. If anything, he looked like he'd just crawled out of a hole in the ground (imagine that). Apparently, though, the question the articles linked to above wonder who put him there--and why.

Like I said, call me skeptical, until I see something that really offers concrete evidence.

In Closing

Well, I'm being a little lazy here, watching a football game (on FOX no less), and they were kind enough to cut away to a special news report by one of the more vapid newscasters I've seen in some time. In the two minute report, they managed to break down the color-coded terror chart--complete with the announcement of the "new" level of danger--while assuring us that our Christmas won't be affected. Still, I guess it lends a whole new meaning to "shop till you drop."

There's a good chance this will comprise my only post of the day. Chores await, and I gotta knock some out before the holiday week starts.